Mindbender

The Unabridged Cube is a motley collection that contains one of each card ever printed. Sometimes — particularly during spoiler season — it puts some new and unreleased cards into a random booster draft. How and why it does this is a question best left to the ages; you can only conclude that this at least makes your local tournaments more interesting.

Sometimes, however, a quality deck will elude you regardless of how many unreleased cards you draft. Today is no exception: you’re playing around with a copy of the Amonkhet expansion’s Throne of the God-Pharoah. However, you’re doing this in a {W}{U} deck that doesn’t contain a lot of creatures, and it hasn’t been the most optimal environment.

“So,” Phil says, “are you blocking anything?”

You glance at the cards in your hand (a Lat-Nam’s Legacy and a Negate), then shake your head. “I can’t block the Heirs of Stromkirk, and I think I’ll let your Ryusei, the Falling Star through for now.”

“Okay,” Phil says. “You’ve got two cards in hand, so Meishin, the Mind Cage gives everything -2/-0. That means the Heirs are 1/3 and Ryusei’s a 3/5. I’ll tap my Wyluli Wolf to give the Heirs a +1/+1 bonus, making them 2/4.”

Meishin, the Mind Cage
You touch the Gossamer Chains on your side of the board and shake your head again. “That’s not a good choice for me either way. I’ll bounce the Chains to prevent the damage from your Ryusei.”

“So you’ll take two damage from the Heirs?”

“Just one — the Chains leave me with three cards in hand. I’m down to six life.”

“And the Heirs get another +1/+1 counter,” Phil says, reaching into his dice bag.

You glance at the board again. Meishin, the Mind Cage has been the only thing preventing Phil from winning this game outright, but he’s now starting to outpace it, and there seems to be no relief in sight.

“I’ll tap 6 mana to cast a Needleshot Gourna, then end my turn,” Phil says. “Any responses?”

“I’ll cast Lat-Nam’s Legacy now,” you say, shuffling the Negate back into your library. At this rate, you think, Phil’s not likely to be casting a lot of non-creature spells.

Your upkeep draws from the Legacy turn out to be fairly good — a Lithomancer’s Focus and a Gift of Tusks. However, your draw step gives you an Azorius Chancery, and you most definitely don’t have a need for lands at the moment. Still, it leaves you with four cards in your hand for the Mind Cage.

That said, you’re not about to stand by while a dragon and some vampires whittle down your life total over the next few turns. There’s got to be a way out of this mess.

It is the start of your first main phase. Defeat Phil before the beginning of his next combat phase.

You are at 6 life, with the following cards in play:

You have the following cards in your hand:

You have not yet played a land this turn. You do not know the identities or order of any of the remaining cards in your library.

Phil is at 9 life and has no cards in his hand. He has the following cards in play:

If you think you’ve got a great solution in mind, don’t put it in the comments! Instead, send it to puzzles@gatheringmagic.com with the subject line “Puzzle — Mindbender” by 11:59 P.M. EST on Sunday, April 23, 2017. We’ll include the best ones in next week’s article along with the next puzzle!

Last Week’s Puzzle

Correct solutions to last week’s puzzle were received from Norman Dean, Russell Jones, Paul Seitz, Matthew Harvey, Aaron Golas, Addison Fox, Samuel Sadusky, Greg Dreher, Bill Murphy, Dominic Chan, Samuel Heersink, Hyman Rosen, Ryou Niji, Subrata Sircar, and Luke Paulsen.

“It's funny,” Addison Fox writes.“Desiree cast Nest of Scarabs under the assumption that making dozens of 1/1 tokens would be a good idea, but here we come with the Lost Order of Jarkeld making her regret having the ability (and indeed, the requirement) to go so wide.”

“It is clear that the only way we could deal enough damage is with a huge Lost Order of Jarkeld,” Ryou Niji points out.“Because of Vorrac Battlehorns, even if the opponent has an army of creature tokens, she can only block with one creature and is open to massive trample damage. The problem is how to manipulate the opponent's cards to generate that many tokens for you.”

This is where a certain Black enchantment comes in. “Nest of Scarabs can create a lot of tokens for Desiree,” Matthew Harvey writes, “but only if she puts -1/-1 counters on everything . . .  which is just what Soul Snuffers does when it enters the battlefield. But one trigger from Soul Snuffers wouldn't be enough — we need it to enter the battlefield twice.”

You can actually get as far as 22 damage with careful sequencing. Samuel Heersink’s solution illustrates this route:

  1. Cast Gaze of Justice for {W} targeting Desiree's Supreme Exemplar, tapping all your creatures except for Lost Order of Jarkeld.
  2. Soul Snuffers returns to the battlefield, placing-1/-1 counters on all ten creatures in play. This kills Flensermite and creates ten 1/1 scarabs.
  3. Return Conviction to your hand for {W}, leaving Nearheath Chaplain to die.
  4. Activate Nearheath Chaplain's ability for {W}{W}{W} from your graveyard to make two 1/1 spirits.
  5. Cast Faith Unbroken for {W}{W}{W}{W} on your Resilient Wanderer, exiling Soul Snuffers.
  6. Move to combat and attack with Lost Order of Jarkeld, triggering your Sigiled Paladin's Exalted ability.
  7. Desiree will likely block with her toughest blocker — her Mistform Wall, which is currently -1/2.
  8. Before combat damage, discard Conviction to Resilient Wanderer, giving it protection from White. Faith Unbroken falls off.
  9. Soul Snuffers returns to play again, placing-1/-1 counters on all twenty creatures in play, this time creating twenty 1/1 scarabs.

“It’s funny that the ‘can't be blocked by more than one creature’ clause ended up unnecessary,” Ryou adds.“Even if the opponent blocks Lost Order of Jarkeld with all available blockers, our instant-speed trick ensures that only the Mistform Wall will be left, and the new Insect tokens as well as the Soul Snuffers itself can only watch helplessly!”

“Note that while all the Nest of Scarabs triggers are on the stack waiting to create that army of Insects,” Matthew continues, “our Lost Order of Jarkeld is still a 3/3, as Desiree still controls three creatures — Mistform Wall (-2/1), Vampire Envoy (-1/2) and Soul Snuffers (2/2).(The Lost Order would be a 5/5 if not for the two -1/-1 counters.) So there is no chance of it ending up dead due to state-based effects while we wait for the insects.”

“It’s actually a very good thing that Nest of Scarabs doesn't care what sort of creatures (token or non-token) are getting the -1/-1 counters,” Matthew muses.“If it did, this would have gone very differently.”


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